2. The Values & Institutions Which Underlie The Australian Achievement
From The Australian Achievement by LJM Cooray (1996)

The following are the "values and institutions" which are considered important in the evolution of Western and Australian civilisation.

These are analysed in various parts of this book.

This list is not intended to be inclusive nor exclusive. There is considerable overlap and the entries are not necessarily in the order of importance. The list shows the essentially evolutionary and non-ideological (at times anti-ideological) nature of the Western democratic order.

Professor David Kemp in Freedom and the Rise of Western Civilisations Sydney (1984) pp 20-21 provides a succinct summary of these values and institutions drawing on Alexander de Tocqueville (Democracy in America ed JP Mayer, trans G Lawrence NY (1969) p 677)

"The Tocquevillian strategy to check the inexorable extension of the central power in the interests of preserving a degree of individual autonomy includes the independent election of different levels of government; "associations of plain citizens" which, by defending their "private interests against the encroachments of power [save] the common liberties"; a free press; the independent power of the judiciary; strict observance of procedures; strong insistence of the 'friends of liberty' on the protection of private rights from arbitrary power; and the explicit definition of a sphere of private rights free from interference."

The question may well be asked, what is the basis for the assertion that certain values and institutions have been responsible for the rise of western civilisation? I can provide no theory nor empirical evidence to support these propositions. Neither the relationship which I have drawn, nor any other social or historical relationship, can be established as a scientific proposition.

The conclusion represents my understandings based on my study of history, law, politics, government and the Bible in reasonable depth. More superficial encounters with readings in sociology, philosophy and economics have also influenced me. My practical involvements as a teacher, in politics, in journalism, in law, as a company director, in the working of government bureaucracies and committees and in religious organisations have deepened my understandings — as has the experience of living and working for substantial periods among brown, black, white and yellow people on three continents and for shorter periods on the other two continents has also been a factor which deepened my understandings.

The values and institutions which have contributed to the rise of western civilisation involve a balance between scope for freedom on the one hand and restraints on freedom on the other, so that the exercise of freedom by some does not detract from the freedom of others. Scope both for freedom and for self discipline and restrictions on freedom is necessary. Freedom is important — but it is freedom tempered by a sense of responsibility, a recognised need for limited legal and, more importantly, for extra legal limitations on freedom. There is an important but restricted role for law and government and for other values and institutions which ensure that freedom will be exercised in a reasonably responsible way. The above-stated values and institutions form a package with economic and political freedom (subject to limited government and individual responsibility) as paramount.

The necessary institutional checks and balances on freedom are important. Some of these are based on law and others are outside the legal system, such as religion, moral values, individual responsibility, tradition, family and discipline. These factors have, in the history of the Western democratic order been very significant in restricting the abuse of freedom and in avoiding anarchy. The evolved system involves a delicate balance. This balance has been evolved over the years.

The phrase, "The western democratic order" (sometimes the reference is to the "democratic order") was selected after much thought, as a shorthand description of the above-mentioned values and institutions. The word "western" has both a geographical and metaphorical connotation. The values and institutions of the western system were carried by colonists and immigrants to various parts of the world. Thus the term "western" includes Europe (the western part of the globe) and also those parts of the world in which persons of European descent constitute the majority — for example, Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

Democracy is the most important characteristic of the western democratic order in the minds of many. It is a concept and a system with which most people positively identify. It is more difficult to explain and define. Democracy in the literal sense, rule by the people, is not a practical possibility in modern organised societies which occupy a large area of territory. The concept of democracy is analysed in section 4. The word "democracy" is not used by itself. The reference to the democratic order is intended to point to the many values and institutions which together were responsible for the evolution of made western civilisation and Australia what it is. The use of the word "order" is intended to have a broadening effect. The word "order" is used in conjunction with "western" and "democratic" as an expression to describe the values and institutions referred to above which were responsible for the rise and development of western civilisation.

My first preference was to use the phrase "liberal democratic order". I did not use the phrase for the reason that the word "liberal" has been corrupted and is likely to be misunderstood in Australia as a consequence of its association with a political party. In political science it has many different connotations, with the American meaning of "liberal" differing from the use of the word "liberal" in Europe and Australia. If the word "liberal" were used it would have been in what may be called the "classical liberal" meaning. However, many who see the title may not have interpreted it in such a way. Nevertheless, liberalism and freedom (political and economic) in the context of limited government and individual responsibility were crucial in the rise and development of western civilisation. Unfortunately, a shorthand expression which includes the dynamics of freedom could not be found for a title.